Blair makes room for Brown

So the British Prime Minister has announced he will stand down on June 27th. No real surprise there, this has been on the cars for a long time. It is widely expected that Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequor (Sec Treas equivalent), will replace him in the leadership role.

Mr Brown will not even have to move homes, as he already lives in 10 Downing Street, as Mr Blair elected to move his family into the more capacious 11 Downing Street (the traditional Chancellor’s home) when he was elected in 1997.

So here issomething interesting for my american friends:
Who chooses the Prime Minister?
Technically, the Queen does. She invites a member of parliament to form a governent. This is usually the leader of the party that has a majority in the House of Commons.

So who elects the leader of the party?
Well it depends on the party, but it is usually Members of Parliament, citizens who are active party members, or some members of trade unions.

Under normal circumstances, the majority of the general public have absolutely no say in who becomes the Prime Minister. There is never a public vote on the matter. A general election is a forum where Members of Parliament are elected. The party that ends up with the majority are the winner in what is known as the “First Past the Post” system. Members of Parliament are elected to represent a region or constituency, so the public in a constituency where the leader of the winning party is elected are essentially the only members of the public who actually voted for the new prime minister.

So what happens now? There is not going to be a general election, but the leadership of the country is going to change. There will be a very public leadership campaign, but the percentage of the population that could vote in the private leadership race is very small. The party is not even obliged to involve the public, they can have a closed vote if they wish, involving only elected MP’s.

Normally the United Kingdom is cited as being a model for modern democracy. On this issue I feel it falls very short.

Being “half american” I am fast becoming used to having the feeling of at least a modicum of control over the people in power. Imagine if George Bush, and Cheney resigned tommorrow, and the Republicans could vote among themselves to choose a new President…

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